I first published in this post in September 2018, then again in March 2019. After two years of Covid-19 and with some shows opening up again, this seems like a good time to re-post. While many shows have gone virtual and some are still virtual, most of the objectives listed below still apply. 

Let's talk about goals & objectives for participating in vendor, craft & art shows. Of course making sales is usually the goal in such shows. We have, after all, spent time planning, gathering supplies, making our products, and we've likely paid a fee to be in the event. We want to move some of our products and make some money from it.

But what if you don't reach your sales goal? And worse, what if you don't make any sales or even sell enough to cover your booth fee? It's happened to all of us at one time or another. Frustrating isn't it! And it's easy to become a grumpy cat during the show, but then potential customers don't want to approach us. And sadly we can start to appear desperate.

But, wait! There are many other benefits to participating in a show. A simple shift can make all the difference in your perception of success, even when your sales goal is not reached. And that shift is to be open to the many other positive gains we can make, positives that can help us down the road. And that shift is to look at the event, not just to make sales, but as an advertising opportunity. So bear this and the 12 ideas below in mind when you're at a show, perhaps even set some additional objectives when working at shows. Great sales or not, these are areas we should be looking at anyway to help us in future. 

        Connect with your visitors

  1. Get your name out there - talk to visitors, make an impact so they will remember you. Connect with them. Shows are, after all, an opportunity to advertise and not just sell. They may not have met you or seen your work before. Or perhaps they are just not yet ready to buy and need more time. And once a potential customer has seen your work, they may look for you at other shows or at the same show next year. 
  2. Grow your client base. Do you send out a newsletter, have a blog, Facebook or Instagram account? Capture names and emails to bring people to your social media accounts (always respecting spam laws of course).
  3. Find out what people think about your work and products. This is a perfect opportunity to get feedback. Show visitors who are attracted to your work will tell you what they like about it, what they look for. You can get a feel if people are looking for functional items, are re-decorating, want inspiration and information, are interested in taking workshops, or are at the show for other reasons. Which item draws them in the most, which one is no one looking at? 
  4. Practice your elevator pitch. Hopefully you will have practiced in advance what to say, and the more you can practice, the easier your words will flow. But don't automatically assume someone wants to hear all about your product if they approach your booth. You need to know what to ask to determine what they may be interested in.
  5. Sign people up for workshops - if you teach, a show is a great opportunity to show what you will be teaching, and get people to sign up to learn the techniques you use.
  6. Try demos. Artists often sit and sketch or paint during quiet times. If you sell kitchenware, demo how to use them. Visitors love to watch and it can help draw them in. Check first that show rules allow demos, as some do not. 

    Network with other sellers
  7. Visit the other artists and vendors, see and talk to them about their work. I often find new ideas  - a different way to display something for example - or am simply inspired and motivated by the artist and their work.
  8. Get leads on other shows and opportunities. Lots of networking can happen at shows, and I've been able to not only book other shows but offer spots to others in shows that I have run. 
  9. Get to know the show organizers to see what else they are involved in.

    Test a booth layout
  10. Test a booth layout or new look or colour. Sometimes it takes a bit of trial and error before we happen upon the ideal set-up to show off our work. And a spot in the middle of the room has to be arranged differently than a corner booth. See what others do that may work for you. Sometimes it's just a little pedestal or some height that can make the difference. And testing outdoor booths is important too, in case of rain or wind.
  11. Take photos of your booth - you'll notice things in the photos that you didn't see in real life, both displays that look great and areas that need to be tweaked. Pictures close-up and farther away can be very telling and can go a long way to helping your booth look polished and professional. 

    Be Inspired
  12. Above all, enjoy. If sales are low, don't be the picture of doom. Visitors can feel your negativity, and may be reluctant to approach you. So no matter how things are going, smile, enjoy and be welcoming. And remember the other ideas above. Who knows what the future holds.
And speaking of virtual, Out of the Box Fibre Artists, of which I am a member, is holding a virtual show & sale April 23, 2022 until May 8th, 2022. Do please check it out! https://fiber-fling.ca/


"Music is full of longing and movement.  Painting should be the same." I read this quote in Hundred and Thousands: The Journals of...